With another resounding victory under its belt, the Labour Party is now days away from electing its new Deputy Leader. With three highly-esteemed ministers contesting, it is a tight race, which outcome is difficult to predict, further augmented by the fact that all three have performed brilliantly in their respective ministerial roles. What is certain is that the final decision, albeit a tough one, rests with the Labour Party delegates, who this time, for the first time in the Labour Party’s history can elect a female as their Deputy Leader.
Minister Helena Dalli, has been active within the party since her youth, serving in Parliament for more than two decades, with a political career which has culminated in a hugely successful tenure as Minister for Civil Liberties during the last legislature, firmly placing Malta on the forefront of the international Civil Rights map. Here at maltawinds.com we have spoken to the Hon Minister Dalli to gain a better perspective into the person who could effectively become the first female Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.
MW: Do you believe that 2017 will be the year when, the PL, with equality and female participation featuring high on its agenda, would make history and select a female as its Deputy Leader?
Minister Dalli: PL has always been at the forefront of the advancement of women’s’ rights in Malta. I welcome Joseph Muscat’s commitment and vision for more women in key roles in politics – this will be his legacy within the Labour Party.
MW: What has been the reasoning behind your decision to contest for the post? Was there a particular event or moment which influenced your decision, or has this always been a vision for your political career?
Minister Dalli: I was honoured that the Prime Minister entrusted me with the European Affairs portfolio, previously covered by former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech. Many delegates, and others outside the party, encouraged me to consider this position, also saying that it is time for the first woman deputy leader of the Labour Party. I always served the party, whenever I was asked. It was then the Prime Minister who sealed my candidature, in Strasbourg when he encouraged me to put my name forward.
MW: Throughout the last legislature, right through to the present moment, you have taken the issue of civil liberties onto a whole new stratospheric level which has forever changed this country’s collective perception of same. Do you believe your sterling work in this sector will influence the delegates’ vote?
Minister Dalli: I believe that no person should be discriminated against or treated badly for being who they are. In my political career, I always sought to empower people who have been marginalised in society. This is what the Labour Party stands for and why I am proud of what we achieved on civil liberties. We managed to change the lives of thousands of people for the better. The Labour Party delegates embraced this vision and worked for it as much as my Ministry and the Office of the Prime Minister did. The success we achieved is theirs as much as it is mine.
MW: With regard to the deputy leader contest itself, the fact that you are female could turn out to be a double-edged sword; there will be those who will be voting BECAUSE you are female and feel that more than half of the population (the female half) needs better representation in the party and yet there will be those who will not vote for you simply BECAUSE you are female and somewhat feel they are not yet ready for a female Deputy Leader. How do you personally view this whole scenario?
Minister Dalli: The Prime Minister’s drive, vision and commitment for more women in leadership roles, both in the party and nationally, will not go unnoticed. But the delegates will also be considering my long experience in the Labour Party, I practically grew up in the party; my 21-year experience in Parliament, both in government and in opposition; my work as a minister which placed Malta as the best in Europe; and maybe also my academic background in the social sciences.
MW: In the event that you are elected to the post, what is your vision for the party as its new Deputy Leader? Do you envisage any changes?
Minister Dalli: I believe that delegates should take ownership of and be more involved in the implementation of the electoral manifesto. After all, it is the delegates themselves who approved the proposals and therefore, they should be the first to scrutinise the Cabinet’s work and come forth with their suggestions and critique. At the same time, it is my commitment to ensure that the Parliamentary Group remains close to the people. We need to have our internal structures geared towards the people in order to follow all genuine cases.
This is the approach I took during my 38-year career in politics and within the Party. I listen to the people, get into the issues and never shy away from taking the necessary decisions. This is the approach that should lead us to more success in the years to come.
MW: Being already in charge of quite a hefty portfolio, how would the post of Deputy Leader impact on your ministerial work?
Minister Dalli: This was one of the issues I had the opportunity to discuss with Louis Grech during one of our recent visits to Strasbourg with the Prime Minister. I believe that Louis has found the right balance between the two roles and I take his advice. The post brings with it a greater role in Parliament, the institution I have had the pleasure to serve in for the past 21 years. I look forward to continue building on Louis Grech’s great work.
MW: With three very well-respected ministers who have consistently performed throughout the past four and a half years, this is a hotly contested race for the Deputy Leadership, what do you believe gives you the edge over your rivals and on the eve of the vote what is your final message to the delegates?
Minister Dalli: This will not be an easy decision for delegates. We have among the best elements in the Party and we have to make use of all these elements in the best possible way. I am confident that the delegates will read the signs and make the best choice. Whatever the outcome, we have to move forward as a team, under the leadership of Joseph Muscat, who we must try to convince to stay on as Prime Minister and PL Leader.